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Middle East

Middle East peace short on believers

Israelis and Palestinians are at odds over what a peace deal could look like, but they are united in one thing: the belief that an agreement is still a long way off and will not be signed next year.

"Somehow I still dream there will be peace, but it's just a wish - my heart wants it; but my brain and mind say it won't happen," 38-year old biologist from Tel Aviv, Lizi Hameiri, told DW. "I don't believe in it - it's a big act of deception, the Palestinians did not want to negotiate until the US put pressure on them. I just see the face of deception and I don't see any will for peace."

Hameiri believes Israel should not sign any interim deal with the Palestinians, saying that the Oslo Accords (first face-to-face agreement that created a Palestinian interim self-government and called for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from part of Gaza and the West Bank - the ed.) with the Palestinians had been a "mistake."

"If there is an agreement it needs to be one that ends this once and for all - but I am not optimistic, 20 years after Oslo and it's still just hatred."

She thinks that giving Palestinians territory and withdrawing Jewish settlers from the West Bank would not help and cites the example of violence erupting after Gaza was returned and settlers evacuated. "If territory is returned on the West Bank the settlers must return [to Israel], or they will be slaughtered," she said.

Two-state or one-state solution?

A poll conducted by Arab World for Research and Development research center released at the end of October, found 54 percent of the 1,200 Palestinians surveyed supported a two-state solution with Israel - but the same 54 percent felt the process would not end in a two-state peace deal.

Palestinian and Israeli flags

The idea of living side-by-side appears anathema to many Palestinians and Israelis

Similarly Israel's Democracy Institute's monthly peace index poll showed 73 percent of Israelis surveyed believed the Israel-Palestinian negotiations would not lead to peace, while 60 percent were in favour of the peace talks taking place.

Senior lecturer in political studies at Bar-Ilan University Jonathan Rynhold said a full settlement would not be reached within the nine-month time frame designated for the peace negotiations. "Most likely nothing will happen, but it could reach a crisis point if there is no agreement and the Palestinians may go to the United Nations. I believe both sides are committed to a two-state solution, unlike previous leaders, however their conception of a two-state solution is very different and probably mutually exclusive," he told DW.

He believes that Israel and Palestine would be able to reach an agreement on territory and settlements, but not on refugees and security.

An interim agreement

An interim agreement could involve a withdrawal of Israelis from the West Bank, according to Rynhold. He said this would involve removing between 75-90 percent of the Israelis living in the West Bank. In turn Israeli security would be significantly scaled back.

Any fallout of an interim agreement would depend on how withdrawing settlers is handled - isolating the most radical settlers who were likely to use force on the Israel Defense Force while supporting the others.

Both sides are sensitive to being blamed for any collapse of the negotiations. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has vowed to replace Palestinian negotiators who've threatened to resign, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a freeze on a further 20,000 settler homes.

The chairman of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs, Dr Mahdi Abdul Hadi, says there is little real will for a two-state solution, instead a form of apartheid appears to be developing.

"If [US Secretary of State] John Kerry wants to open a new chapter of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, he will above all have to deal with the Zionist claim to all the land of Palestine; a claim that has been at the root of the conflict for the last 100 years and has developed into an obsession of control."

Israeli soldiers, atop a tank, prepare to leave their Gaza border position at sun rise REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis (ISRAEL - Tags: CONFLICT POLITICS)

Past agreements have not always had the desirable effect - violence often appears just a shot or stone's throw away

Troubled peace process

He believes two key things had convinced Abbas to return to the negotiating table in July this year - "an American commitment to the pre-1967 borders with minor and mutually agreed land swaps."

East Jerusalem resident Osama Khoury said that he didn't believe Israel would want to end Jewish settlements on the West Bank or allow the right of return for the large number of Palestinian refugees across the region. "Peace is the only solution, but there is no willingness to achieve this," he said.

Meir Litvak, Associate Professor at the Department of Middle Eastern History at Tel Aviv University, said, if reached, a two-state peace agreement would not bring lasting peace. "Neither of the leaderships are capable of making the necessary concessions. Israel is moving forward with settlements and Palestinians will not give up the idea of right-of-return, believing that it's sacrosanct. We need a different formula," he told DW.

Lev Solodkin, 24, a student from Petah Tiqwa, said he did not believe in a Palestinian state and remained unconvinced that any accord would bring a lasting peace.

"There will always be animosity between the people. The Arabs do no want peace, it is a term which doesn't exist in their vocabulary - their main goal is to drive Jews out of Israel."

However, he said, if a peace deal were to be reached between the Palestinians and Israel, the Jewish settlers should remain, saying they were not an obstacle to peace. "They are good people with good values."

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